Undesign the Redline, is an interactive exhibit connecting the history of housing discrimination and segregation to the political and social issues of today. The thought-provoking, nationally acclaimed exhibit includes the history of Des Moines’ core neighborhoods through the pictures, maps, timelines and stories of its residents and is intended to inform and compel future policies that support equitable housing.

Created by social impact firm Designing the WE, in partnership with PCHTF, the exhibit is an examination of how government policy from the 1930s (which became known as redlining) to today, created segregation and disinvestment in communities within Des Moines while tremendously benefiting others.  Creators and supporters of the exhibit believe that by understanding the enormous role that race played in determining where people were allowed to live, we can better understand why Des Moines looks the way it does, how discriminatory housing practices continue and what needs to change going forward. 

“This guided tour into the local history of race, class and housing policy will make some uncomfortable, and it should, given the damage done by these programs. But thankfully the Exhibit doesn’t stop there,” said Eric Burmeister, Executive Director of Polk County Housing Trust Fund. “It also provides ways to mitigate the damage done and proactively address inequities in future policies and programs in our region.” 

“It is our hope that as people engage with the history of redlining and hear how lives continue to be damaged, they will feel moved to have conversations around the design and growth patterns in our community. This includes calling for action to create housing policies that with great intentionality will work to reverse redlining and provide equity and opportunities for all people, in all neighborhoods,” shared Kendyl Larson, Director of Research and Planning at PCHTF.

The Undesign the Redline exhibit is now on display at Franklin Junior High,

4801 Franklin Ave., Des Moines,

with tours scheduled 4X a week. Organizations and companies interested in providing tour experiences for board members, employees and special committees are finding the exhibit’s interactive approach to be a powerful way to encourage the exploration of how the decisions made today will impact, for better or worse, the lives of others and the economic vitality of central Iowa. The guided tours are free, open to the public and individuals are welcome to sign up and be included within general groups.